Rwandan women: on the quest for peace

15 novembre, 2011

Rwandans and Kenyans get together to learn more.

Five Rwandan women, have been working to build peace in their region. They felt they could still learn more. Looking to their neighbours in Kenya, they felt an exchange of ideas, approaches and methods could add further value to their work.

The feeling was mutual. The Kenyan team – ‘Rural Women Peace Link’ – too felt they could benefit from learning what was being done in Rwanda to support reconciliation and build lasting peace.

In partnership with the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), the five Rwandan women travelled to Kenya.The visit was made possible by Interpeace and IRDP through the Biba Amahoro Project, an initiative designed by IRDP to enhance the role of women in peacebuilding initiatives in Rwanda. The ‘Rural Women Peace Link’ hosted the visit.

Nuria Abdi, Programme Manager at Interpeace Regional Office for Eastern and Central Africa in Nairobi explains: “These are all extraordinary women devoted to peace. Sharing the challenges and talking through solutions helps not only the work that is being done on the ground but helps create a support network to tackle new challenges as they arise.”

In the Kenyan post-election violence of 2007-2008, it is estimated that 1,200 died and more than 500,000 fled their homes due to the violence. The Kenyan team took the women of Rwanda on a tour of some of the areas affected by the violence.

As they explained how their own communities had been torn apart by the post-election violence the stories of events quickly came to the surface.

Standing in the middle of the ‘Burn Forest’ market, one of the Kenyan peacebuilder said: “one day all women were sisters and trading freely, the next day each tribe was fighting the other.” This was only three years ago. But the peacebuilder went on to explain: “
but thanks to our grassroots initiatives, peace is returning to our community.”

In the ‘Burnt Forest’ Trading Center, the ‘Rural Women Peace Link’ built a market to help rebuild relationship between women from the two warring tribes in the region.

Nuria, commenting on the strategy stated: “among one of the most importance cornerstones of our Interpeace approach is dialogue. A market building, with stall holders and customers, makes dialogue happen naturally.”

On a visit to Mt. Elgon, Nuria reconfirmed the importance of women in peacebuilding: “In Kenya, women have made a huge difference to making peace stick. The regional visit exchange confirmed the importance of women to use their capacity, which is often unnoticed, to bring societies back together. They are so often the ones to build long lasting peace.”